Where is my Lord?
Rev. Steven D. Spencer, Pastor Messiah Lutheran Church
John 20:10 Then the disciples went back to their homes, 11 but Mary stood outside the tomb crying. As she wept, she bent over to look into the tomb 12 and saw two angels in white, seated where Jesus' body had been, one at the head and the other at the foot. 13 They asked her, "Woman, why are you crying?" "They have taken my Lord away," she said, "and I don't know where they have put him." 14 At this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing there, but she did not realize that it was Jesus. 15 "Woman," he said, "why are you crying? Who is it you are looking for?" Thinking he was the gardener, she said, "Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have put him, and I will get him." 16 Jesus said to her, "Mary." She turned toward him and cried out in Aramaic, "Rabboni!" (which means Teacher). 17 Jesus said, "Do not hold on to me, for I have not yet returned to the Father. Go instead to my brothers and tell them, 'I am returning to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.'" 18 Mary Magdalene went to the disciples with the news: "I have seen the Lord!" And she told them that he had said these things to her.
I. Mary Magdalene
Look quietly, dear friends. There she is, Mary Magdalene weeping by the tomb. It's early in the morning, still dark. She's come with the other women as soon as they could without violating the Sabbath, bringing the spices through the morning gloom in order to prepare Jesus body for proper burial. These are devoted women, and there's little doubt that Mary Magdalene has a deep and godly love for her Lord. She has risked much to come to the tomb, but none of that really matters now.
As she approaches the tomb she notices that the stone has been removed; her Lord's grave has been disturbed, robbed, violated; His body is gone. Who would have done such a vile thing as this? Swiftly she runs to Peter and John with the conclusion: "They have taken away the Lord out of the tomb, and we do not know where they have laid Him." Peter and John race to the tomb, and Peter bolts inside: It is empty, except for the burial cloths for the body and head. Those are neatly folded and set aside; whoever has removed the body has gone to a lot of extra trouble to unwrap the body and leave the linens there; but why? Who would do such a thing? With nothing else to do, John and Peter go back home.
Mary Magdalene doesn't go anywhere - where is she to go after Jesus death? She remains by the tomb to mourn. When she finally peers into tomb once again, she finds two strangers facing her; she doesn't realize they're angels. And they ask her, "Woman, why are you weeping?" She repeats, "Because they have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid Him." Truly, this is a woman who dearly loves Jesus, and she won't be easily consoled at His passing.
Turning from the angels, she is confronted by a man-the gardener, she supposes. At least He might have some answers. "Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you seeking?" He asks. "Sir," she replies, "if You have carried Him away, tell me where You have laid Him, and I will take Him away." Mary is devoted to her Lord, and she won't rest until His body has been properly cared for.
So, there is Mary weeping by the tomb, this woman with great love for Jesus. She's witnessed His power, for it was He that delivered her from seven demons (Lk. 8:2). Even after His crucifixion, when many others ran away and hid, she didn't. She remained faithful and devoted to the very end. And now she's seeking to care for her Savior even after He's His death. It's easy to admire her compassion and devotion, and so we quietly leave her there to her grief and meditations as an example for us all to follow.
Of course, if we do that, then we're going to have a dreadful Easter. If we leave now, all we have is Mary weeping by the tomb. Maybe she's a good example of devotion, love and mourning; but we have no hope, because we have no resurrection from the dead.
Does it matter? Of course it matters. We appreciate Mary's devotion that morning at the tomb; but if this is how the story ends, Mary is to be most pitied and is left hopeless. She's seeking a Savior who couldn't even save Himself. She's putting her trust in a dead man, and the dead have no help to give. No matter how faithful and devoted she is, her faith and devotion will amount to nothing.
If we stop now, the message of Easter isn't a pretty one: "No matter how devoted and committed you are, in the end you have no hope, no cause to rejoice."
So let's not leave Mary Magdalene just quite yet, let's pull a Paul Harvey "and now the rest of the story."
"Sir," she says to the Gardener, "if You have carried Him away, tell me where You have laid Him, and I will take Him away." Ah, but the Gardener isn't the gardener. He does, however, know the answer to her question: And He says to Mary: "Mary! and she turns to Him and says, "Rabboni" which means teacher." He's not dead. It’s Jesus risen from the dead, He’s alive.
He's risen! This won't be a day for Mary to weep and think about what might have been. This won't be a day for her to reflect that life, no matter how great, ends in death. No! This is a day to cry out: Death where is your sting, grave where is your victory. Jesus is victorious over death and the grave He truly is the Savior of the world. He has suffered God's punishment for the sins of the world on the cross, but His Father has not left Him in the grave. Christ is alive-He is risen from the dead! And that means that He has conquered sin, death and the devil.
Not only is Christ alive, but also present with Mary Magdalene. He's out of the tomb, but He doesn't shake the dust off His sandals, head off heaven and say, "That's it I'm done with these thankless sinners." He appears to Mary, and He does so in the flesh - He’s not trapped in some ghostly afterlife, but risen from the dead in soul and body. He appears to her with joyous news: He's alive, and He is alive to forgive. He doesn't call the disciples spineless cowards who ran away; He calls them brothers whom He wants to see and speak with. He declares that they are not lost-His Father is their Father. Now that He's risen from the dead, the Lord wants to be with His people in the flesh, and to speak His Word of grace to them-to guarantee that they are heirs of eternal life.
The risen Lord declares to Mary that He's going to ascend into heaven; and there, He will sit at the right hand of God, the Father almighty, from thence He shall come to judge the quick and the dead. This is far from what Mary expected when she arrived in darkness that morning, the tomb isn't the end of the story. The story is just getting started.
So, it's a good thing that we didn't leave Mary back when she was weeping at the tomb; for now, rather than respect her devotion, we can rejoice with her.
Jesus is risen from the dead, which means that He has conquered death.
Jesus is present with Mary, which means that He has conquered death for her.
He is about to ascend into heaven, which means He will rule with all things under His feet-for the good of Mary and all His people.
No more weeping for Mary: The Lord has wiped every tear from her eye.
So, now we'll leave Mary; because Mary hasn't been left.
II. Easter Day
A blessed Easter Day to you all, for we celebrate nothing less than the triumph over death itself. We rejoice that Christ has accomplished what all of science, all of medicine and all of human effort can not - He has conquered the grave, He is risen. He has won the victory so that we can truly live forever in the gracious presence of God. This is what we celebrate on Easter Sunday.
It is why St. Paul declares in I Corinthians 15:17, "If Christ is not risen, your faith is in vain."
We believe, because the Word of God proclaims: Christ is risen from the dead. The only-begotten Son of God became flesh and died for the sins of the world, suffering God's judgment for our sin. Three days later, He rose again from the dead. Just, as He did for Mary Magdalene, He's risen, He's present; and, as He promised, He ascended.
Rejoice, for Christ is risen from the dead, and lives and reigns forevermore. This is the Good News for us sinners, this is the Good News for all: The price has been paid for your sin-the Sacrifice has been made for you. You can be sure that God approves of what Christ has done on the cross, because He has raised His Son from the dead. Therefore, you are forgiven. This is Good News for them that face death, and so it's Good News for all: Christ has been raised from the dead, and He's the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. Though you will face death, you will be raised from the dead because Christ has defeated the grave. This is Good News for those who grieve: Although we mourn for those who have died in the Lord, the Lord declares that we shall be comforted. The grave is not the end of the story. The Resurrection is the beginning of eternity. All this is true for Christ is risen.
Because Christ is risen, Christ is present. He appeared, body-blood-and-all to Mary Magdalene in the garden, speaking to her words of grace and forgiveness. He hasn't abandoned you His people; for He's ever present with you, body-blood-and-all in His means of grace. In your Baptism, He's washed away your sin and joined you to His death; and because He shares His death with you, you don't have to die for your sins, for He shares His resurrection with you. In His Word, He speaks His faith-giving promises to you, assuring you that you are forgiven for all of your sins-and that you have eternal life. In His Holy Supper, He gives to you His very body and blood for the forgiveness of sins, that He might raise you-body, blood and all- on the Last Day. Christ is risen just as He said, and Christ is present to give you the newness of life.
All this is true because Christ is risen from the dead. We celebrate today is nothing less than the triumph over death-the grave- and the devil. Such blessings are found in no one else but your Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
Christ is risen. Alleluia------He is risen, indeed. Alleluia. -Amen
The peace of God, which surpasses all human understanding, keep your hearts and minds, in Christ Jesus. - Amen